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11 Best D-Day Movies and Shows to Watch

From ‘The Longest Day’ to ‘Saving Private Ryan,’ revisit the historic turning point in World War II on its 80th anniversary


spinner image Characters in the films Saving Private Ryan and The Longest Day and the miniseries Band of Brothers
AARP (Source: Alamy (3))

It’s been 80 years since Allied forces stormed the beaches of Normandy in the largest seaborne invasion in history. D-Day marked the turning point in World War II, leading to the liberation of Europe from Nazi forces and inspiring a raft of movies and TV shows. Hollywood has produced many a memorable film celebrating this daring and bloody turning point in the war. Here are the very best that you can watch now.

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Saving Private Ryan (1998)

Even if you feel ho-hum about the overall premise of an elite crew seeking out a paratrooper (Matt Damon, 53) whose brothers have all been killed in action, there’s no denying the power of this otherwise unsentimental tribute to the heroism of the Greatest Generation from Steven Spielberg, 77. And the opening 24-minute sequence depicting a grunt-eyed view of the Normandy invasion — the jittery camera angles, the explosions, the vomit, the shaky hands of Tom Hanks, 67 — remains an unparalleled look at war. How in the world did this film lose the best picture Oscar to Shakespeare in Love?

Watch it: On Paramount+, Peacock

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The Americanization of Emily (1964)

This underrated gem features a crackling script by Paddy Chayefsky (Network) skewering the hypocrisies of wartime in the lead-up to D-Day. James Garner stars as a caddish American naval officer stationed in the U.K. who falls for a no-nonsense widow played by Julie Andrews, 88. But then he’s assigned to be the first casualty of the Normandy invasion as part of a cynical publicity plan by his borderline-insane admiral (Melvyn Douglas).

Watch it: On Prime Video, Apple TV

Band of Brothers (2001)

Spielberg followed his D-Day classic Saving Private Ryan with an epic 10-part HBO series following an elite team of U.S. paratroopers from basic training through some seriously graphic battle scenes. Based on Stephen Ambrose’s nonfiction bestseller, this is the rare war movie that doesn’t milk its most emotional moments or telegraph its surprises. The show’s restraint extends to its first-rate cast of then mostly unknowns, including future stars like Damian Lewis, 53 (Homeland, Billions), Donnie Wahlberg, 54 (Blue Bloods), and Michael Fassbender (Steve Jobs).

Watch it: On Max

The Big Red One (1980)

Director Sam Fuller based this gripping drama on his own experiences as a U.S. Army infantryman who saw heavy WWII action in North Africa and Sicily and then on Omaha Beach. Lee Marvin plays the sergeant whose squad is whittled down to a smaller band that includes Robert Carradine, 70 (as Fuller’s stand-in), and Star Wars alum Mark Hamill, 72. There’s a matter-of-factness to this war story, whose focus is less on noble heroics than on the primal impulse to survive.

Watch it: On the Roku Channel

D-Day 360 (2014)

This one-hour PBS documentary, produced for the 70th anniversary of the invasion, deploys forensic laser scanning, 3D computer modeling and eyewitness interviews to shed new light on Gen. Omar Bradley’s invasion of Omaha Beach and the decisive turning point in the war.

Watch it: On PBSLearningMedia.org

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Eye of the Needle (1981)

Donald Sutherland, 88, stars as a German spy, nicknamed the Needle for his ruthless way of killing people, who goes to great lengths to learn of the Allied invasion plans for D-Day — including seducing a lonely woman (Kate Nelligan, 74) on an isolated island where he’s washed up in a failed rendezvous with a Nazi submarine. This is a decidedly darker, morally ambiguous spin on the D-Day story, as we ponder what actually drives this German expat.

Watch it: On Prime Video

spinner image Tom Selleck in military uniform Ike: Countdown to D-Day
Tom Selleck in "Ike: Countdown to D-Day."
A&E/Courtesy Everett Collection

Ike: Countdown to D-Day (2004)

Tom Selleck, 79, with a shaved head (and mustache), is almost unrecognizable in this Emmy-nominated TV movie about Gen. Dwight Eisenhower’s preparations for Operation Overlord and the fateful invasion of Normandy. He delivers an understated, brooding performance as the under-pressure military leader that offers an interesting counterpoint to the Oscar-winning turn by Gary Oldman, 66, as Winston Churchill in 2017’s Darkest Hour.

Watch it: On Sling, Prime Video

The Longest Day (1962)

Until Saving Private Ryan, this epic Darryl F. Zanuck production was considered the definitive look at D-Day. This is old-fashioned Hollywood moviemaking on an epic scale, featuring a star-studded cast that includes Robert Mitchum, Henry Fonda, John Wayne, Rod Steiger, Richard Burton, Peter Lawford, Robert Wagner and even a pre-James Bond Sean Connery. (The cast also features several D-Day veterans, including British actor Richard Todd, seen wearing the same beret he wore on the actual day.)

Watch it: On Apple TV, Prime Video

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Overlord (1975)

This award-winning black-and-white film from American director Stuart Cooper, 82, offers a more somber, post-Vietnam take on D-Day — focusing on a 20-year-old British everyman (Brian Stirner) from his recruitment to his fateful arrival on Normandy’s Sword Beach. Cooper seamlessly incorporates actual archival footage into his action sequences, producing a gripping account of the battle while also suggesting that the war itself was a machine willing to sacrifice countless individual human lives to achieve its overarching goals.

Watch it: On the Criterion Channel

Patton (1970)

Franklin J. Schaffner’s seven-Oscar winner covers more than just the Normandy invasion. But by focusing on George C. Scott’s larger-than-life portrayal of Gen. George S. Patton, the film produces a remarkable broad look at the entire European campaign by the Allied forces and the enormous human and psychological cost of every one of his military decisions.

Watch it: On Prime Video, Apple TV

Where Eagles Dare (1968)

Clint Eastwood, 94, made two of the best WWII films of all time — 2006’s Flags of Our Fathers and Letters From Iwo Jima, telling the notorious Pacific-theater battle from both the American and Japanese perspectives. But long before, he made a memorable turn as a U.S. Army Ranger who joins a British mission (led by Richard Burton’s major) to rescue a captured U.S. general before he can divulge the secret plans for the Allied invasion on the Western front. The film features first-rate action scenes — and a truly unexpected plot twist.

Watch it: On Prime Video

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